Using symbolism in D&D campaign design, Part III


The traditional crest of the Papacy is composed of symbols representing the spiritual and temporal power of the Pope and Catholic Church.

This post is the third and last of a series on using symbolism to add depth to a Dungeons & Dragons setting. It is based in part upon Symbols and Their Hidden Meanings by T.A. Kenner, who argues that symbolism effectively constitutes an unspoken language that we humans all understand, sometimes on a subconscious level.

The first post in the series introduced the topic and discussed the symbolic meanings of numbers. The second post dealt with symbolism in art and architecture, and this final post will discuss the use of symbolism to convey connotations of power and identity.

Power

Power is a concept that all sentient creatures understand, but the various symbols used to represent power may not be so obvious to uninformed observers. For example, a well-known symbol for the Papacy is a pair of crossed keys, one silver and one gold, bound with a red cord. The keys represent the keys to the kingdom of heaven; the silver key binds and unbinds on earth, while the gold does the same in heaven. The cord represents the connection between the two realms, embodied by the Pope himself.

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Using symbolism in D&D campaign design, Part II


 

Propaganda is one historical application of symbolism in art. A glaring example is this 1938 portrait of Adolf Hitler, which depicts one of history's most reviled persons as a literal knight in shining armor.

This post is second in a series on using symbolism to add depth to a Dungeons & Dragons setting, based in part upon Symbols and Their Hidden Meanings by T.A. Kenner. Kenner argues that symbolism is essentially an unspoken language, through which we humans convey information represented by the symbols, sometimes on a level so visceral that we do not consciously know we’ve absorbed their meanings. 

The first post in the series introduced the topic and described common symbolic meanings for numbers. This installment will discuss symbolism in art and architecture, first as it appeared in our human history and then as it may appear in a D&D setting.

Art

Even when an artist intends to accurately depict some aspect of our world, that art can only represent life, making art a symbolic medium by definition.

Historically, the idea that art should serve as a means of personal expression is a relatively new development. For thousands of years, from paleolithic cave paintings to the Ancient Greeks, art was impersonal in nature, typically depicting religious themes, abstract lessons about history, war or farming, and anonymous scenes from everyday life. Continue reading